Katie Lou Samuelson Is Ready For Another Shot At Gold
Colorado Springs, Colorado
As the team gathered around her after the second day of practice inside the U.S Olympic Training Center, and sang happy birthday, Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei H.S./Huntington Beach, Calif.) could not contain the ear-to-ear grin that was spread across her face.
“This is the second year in a row that I’m here (for my birthday), so I guess it’s just a tradition now,” she said.
“It’s definitely awesome. We’ve gotten so close in such a short amount of time that it’s great how comfortable you can feel around them on your birthday, so that’s really cool.”
As happy as Samuelson was yesterday when she celebrated her 17th birthday, the past few weeks had been anything but easy.
On May 26, when Samuelson received the news that she had been named to the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team, she received the news with a mix a joy and uncertainty.
“After I sprained my ankle (on May 25, the night before the team announcement), I pretty much spent much of my time rehabbing and getting better so that I could play. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to,” she said.
“I got an MRI and everything is good now, so those two weeks I was rehabbing as much as I could.”
Feeling like her old self, Samuelson is back in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this week as she and her teammates have resumed their training. Finishing their Colorado Springs training June 18, the USA team will then depart for France and will play three exhibition games there. Following the preparation games in France, the squad will make their way to the Czech Republic for the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women that is being held June 28-July 6.
A member of the USA U16 National Team that won gold at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mexico last summer, Samuelson is one of the six girls returning from that squad, which makes her one of the veterans.
“I know how hard it is to be on a new team, I went through it last year,” she said about having six new teammates on this year’s squad. “I know these girls coming in, they’re probably a bit nervous because there’s six girls that already know each other and know how to play with each other. I definitely try to be a leader on this team.”
Aware of how hard training camp and the practices can be, Samuelson is happy to be back at it, even if that means getting some tough love from head coach Sue Phillips (Archbishop Mitty H.S./San Jose Cagers AAU, Calif.), who also coached her and the USA U16 team last year.
“She’s definitely tough on us but it’s good; it’s great. We know we need it. This year it’s more intense because it’s going to be harder. The competition will be harder.”
Happy to be healthy, Samuelson, who in addition to earning gold at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship also collected gold last summer at theFIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia, is looking forward to representing her country while trying to win her third gold medal.
“I’ve never been to Europe so I am soexcited about that. It’s just awesome that I get to travel to all of these places at such a young age,” she admitted.
“But I think I am most excited to go play and win a gold medal.”
With three more days left of training camp, Samuelson is using this time to continue to improve, help her teammates and most importantly, form a strong connection with everybody.
“It’s so much fun,” she said. “All of these girls are great, and it’s always good to gel and get to know everybody.”
Although the FIBA U17 World Championship is a few weeks off, the road to gold began on Friday with the first practice. For Katie Lou Samuelson, being 100 percent healthy and having her teammates beside her, is all she needs for another shot to become a champion.